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Northern Light

Living There While We’re Here

Recent events, specifically the shooting at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, TX, as well as other events where violence and death have been wrought by frustrated and hurting people against “innocents” (you do know no one in actually “innocent,” right?; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .”) raise the question, how do Christians live in a world which surrounds them but is no longer theirs, when that world is clearly falling apart and Christians are becoming targets of rage more than triumphs of grace?

The call goes out for churches to add security measures similar to those in place in airports, courthouses, schools, and other places where the public gathers. Pastors are encouraged to learn and apply for concealed carry permits. Doors once open are now locked. People once welcomed are now rejected. Love once offered is now withheld. All in the name of safety, security, and common sense.

I won’t deny the wisdom of avoiding presumptuous sin but I do, emphatically, reject the idea that the church ought to operate in the world according to the world’s conception of “common sense.” We don’t operate according to what the world says but according to what God says in His word. Or at least, that’s how the church should operate.

And what does the Bible say? First, God’s word assures the believer they who were once secure in their position of slavery in the kingdom of darkness have been transferred through grace to the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Son whom God loves, the eternal kingdom of light and hope and grace and mercy and love. Paul exults to the Colossians His joy in the Father who “has qualified you to to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12b-13, ESV).

God, through grace, through faith, through Christ, for His glory alone has rescued us from this world and the kingdom of this world and made us subjects and citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Standing before Pontius Pilate, King Jesus had some very revealing things to say about His kingdom:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world . . . . You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth.”                                John 18:36-37, ESV

This is the second assertion God’s word makes relative to our question. Christ’s kingdom, the kingdom of which we are now a part as a matter of faith and divine action, is not a kingdom of this world or from this world. It does not function according to worldly principles. It does not derive it’s authority or power from worldly sources. It’s does not act according to worldly reasoning. And it does not conduct itself in worldly ways. Thus, the servants of Christ do not take up arms to protect Him from the Jews. (As Jesus Himself demonstrates when Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus as the soldiers come to the garden to take Him away and Jesus restores the man’s ear and rebukes Peter!)

God’s people know that faith is not a means to an uneventful, secure life, but, in fact, is an almost certain guarantee of trouble and opposition. They know that their lives will not be different than that of their Master, Jesus. The world hated Him. It will hate them as well, because they are His and because they do things His way and not the world’s way. They turn the other cheek. They go the extra mile. They see their lives in light of eternity. They are willing to lose their lives for His sake and the gospel because they know that life with Him is not a matter of a few years but of forever in the presence of Glory! Their purpose for being is His purpose, not to save their own skins but to bear witness to the truth.

Christians know the history of faith. They know what others have endured to bear witness to the truth. Hebrews chapter 11 is not merely a record of someone else’s commitment but a prophetic utterance of their own daily commitment.

Hebrews 11:32-40 (ESV)
32  And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33  who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34  quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35  Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38  of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39  And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

The kingdoms of this world will fade into unremembered history but the kingdom of the Son is eternal. The kings and kingdoms of this world tread upon one another in the strain for authority and power, all of which has already been given by God to Christ, making their grasping an exercise in ultimate futility. The kingdoms of this world arm themselves to protect themselves against one another. That is what worldly kingdoms do because they know, intuitively and from the testimony of history, that they are temporary and transitory. Not so the kingdom of God in Christ.

Christian, the Old Testament saints prayed that God would teach them to number their days rightly, to see their lives, both in quantity of days and quality of days, from His perspective and not to fall into the deception that this life is all there is. That is the third response of God’s word to our question. The one who sees these few days and months and years as all there is will fight to hold on to as many of them as they can, but the one who by faith in Christ knows their life now is eternal has no such burden to retain what cannot be kept.

This is the truth to which we bear witness, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. If we truly believe and are confident in Christ that life is eternal in Him, in His kingdom, then we ought to live in this world now as those who will live in His world forever. His is not a kingdom of fear but of faith; not a kingdom of uncertainty but of substance; not a kingdom of limits but limitless. Let us live as subjects of His kingdom while we sojourn here even if “here” is clearly falling apart.


  • Monica Klanderud

    Reply November 9, 2017 3:07 pm

    Outstanding! Pastor Dale., thank you for the clear reminder and the encouragement as we continue to be light in this ever-darkening time.

  • Julie Viren

    Reply November 12, 2017 8:47 am

    Thanks Pastor! Some questions about the scripture reference. I need to study that some more..

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